The video you are about to see is awesome, but it's even more awesome if you know a little bit of background, so allow me.
The main "story" here is about an iron-ore mining bill that was passed by the Republican-led Wisconsin Assembly a couple weeks ago despite fierce opposition from conservation groups, environmental activists, and the Native Americans whose land, water, and wild rice beds are situated on the Bad River, just downstream from the proposed open pit iron ore mine.
That bill was introduced by an Assembly committee with no authors and no sponsors. It was written by the company that would be the sole beneficiary of the bill, Gogebic Taconite.
While the Assembly passed the company-authored bill, however, the Wisconsin Senate was writing its own mining bill, through a special Senate mining committee formed in September of 2011. The Senate, like the Assembly, is also led by Republicans, but they now hold only a one vote majority (thanks to two losses in recall elections last summer.) The most moderate of the Republican Senators, Dale Schultz, has said he cannot support the Assembly version of the bill because it removes too many environmental safeguards and eliminates the rights of citizens to challenge proposed mines.
Despite the near certainty that the Assembly bill would fail in the Senate, majority leader Scott Fitzgerald abruptly disbanded the Senate Mining Committee on Wednesday, took up the bill passed by the Assembly and assigned it to the legislature's Joint Finance Committee. He was worried that the legislative session would end with no bill being passed. His bosses at Gogebic Taconite would not like that.
Fitzgerald's action also meant the cancellation of two Senate Mining Committee public hearings that had been scheduled for Friday - one in Platteville and the other in Ashland. Instead, the Joint Finance Committee held one hearing with almost no notice yesterday, in the Capitol in Madison. They said the hearing would end at 5 pm sharp, and they limited speakers to two minutes each.
This is where it starts to get good. As I said, this is a story about mining, but it's also a story about the prejudices of Republican Senators and Representatives in the Wisconsin Legislature and their inability to hear the millions of Wisconsin voices who are telling them that their methods and their policies are wrong. I've often wondered how they justify their deliberate deafness. The answer is they assume that the voices are of those who don't know anything, but they are wrong. The voices are often voices of wisdom and voices of reason. Sometimes they are the voices of cold, hard scientific facts.
One of those voices is Jason. He and I know each other from our many shared experiences at the Capitol over the past year. Jason is one of the most courageous and creative activists in Madison. He has been arrested at least a dozen times for doing things like holding up an index card in the Senate gallery that had "Have a Heart" printed on it. He also helped create the gigantic "R E C A L L" banners that are often hanging over the railing in the Capitol rotunda:
Jason is a voice that Scott Walker and Scott Fitzgerald assume they can ignore, but Jason has an uncanny ability to say just the right thing to get under the skin of Republican officials as they walk through the Capitol. He gets reactions that nobody else can because he cuts his sarcasm with a smile. Jason's one-liners are funny and biting, and he has often made me burst out laughing with just a few well-chosen words or even just a look.
Jason is one of those who, like most of us who resist the FitzWalkerstan regime, have been written off by Governor Scott Walker and the Republican legislators as unemployed, uneducated slackers, thugs, and slobs. We've been labeled as paid union shills and out-of-state agitators. The truth is, those who have dedicated the past year to observing, exposing, and annoying Scott Walker and the Fitzgerald brothers represent a true cross-section of the Wisconsin citizens. We are PhD's and high-school dropouts. We are minimum-wage and trust-funds. We are union and non-union, employees and business-owners. We are old and young, peaceniks and anarchists, artists and computer programmers, progressives and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans. We are Wisconsin.
OK, now watch the video of Jason's testimony before the Joint Finance Committee, but remember that the Republicans on this committee recognize Jason and try to imagine what they are assuming he will say to them...
I love that someone yells out "Mythbuster!" a couple times after Jason's testimony. He busted at least two myths yesterday.